con-man at which advertising agency invented the phrase "mega-pixel"?
It sure sounds impressive but it's pretty meaningless in the real world
of photography and publishing so why bother using it? If I'm going to
be spending untold thousands of dollars on a professional digital camera
I want to know the maximum file size that said camera will produce.
Will it give me a 9Mb TIFF file? 12Mb? 18? 32???
I really don't give a tinker's damn how many "mega-pixels"
a camera has but I do want to know if the camera will produce a file
good enough for a full page photo in the magazine (that'd be 254dpi
x 8.5inches x 11inches = 17.3Mb for me but your mileage may differ depending
on what you're printing.) It's only recently that cameras have been
able to produce this kind of file without the magic of Genuine Fractals
but I see now that Canon will be shortly introducing an EOS digital
camera that will produce a 31Mb TIFF file. Other manufacturers will
This is good, and it's bad.
It used to be that photographic progress came in affordable steps. The
cost of upgrades could be measured in hundreds of dollars, not thousands,
and your Nikon F3 or Canon F-1 would produce images just as good as a
newer F4 or F-1n until your saved enough to get the new camera body. When
an increase in film technology was announced ("400ASA film with grain
as fine as last year's 100ASA film!") the increase in cost per roll
could be measured in cents, not dollars.
- It's good because we are finally approaching film quality in a professional
- It's bad because the thing is going to have an MSRP of around $8000
and the digital cameras you paid $4000 for a year ago will be, essentially,
- It's good because there will be little or no "magnification
factor" with this (or similar) cameras so a 20mm lens will work
like a 20mm lens.
- It's bad because everyone that went out and traded in their 20-35mm
lens for a 16-35mm lens to get that "20mm look" has wasted
$1000 and should have just waited, and since everyone with a 16mm
wide angle will want to use that 16mm wide angle you're going to see
press conferences with many, many still photographers getting very,
very close to the podium which will infuriate the TV people and cause
fist fights across the country.
- It's good because all your fast, high-speed image-stabilized lenses
will still work with the new camera.
- It's bad because those of you that have enjoyed the "magnification
factor" that turned your 300mm/2.8 into a 480/2.8 will now have
to go out and spend even more money on longer faster lenses because
you've gotten used to having a 480/2.8
- It's good because you can still use your Compact Flash cards in
the new machines.
- It's bad because the increased file size means that those 128Mb
cards you paid $300 for will now hold the equivalent of a single roll
of 35mm film. Of course you can always go out and pay hundreds of
more dollars for some 1Gb CF cards and give your old ones to the kids
to store MP3's on.
All you freelancers out there better start planning now for another mortgage
refinancing and you directors of photography better shine up the knee
pads because you'll be begging the ME for a budget increase next year
so that you can keep up with the competition.
© James Colburn